Promotional Propaganda

Perception is reality, until reality overrides perception.

Marketers are branded as liars in no small part because many of them are. So pervasive is the trait that certain smart people have made good money writing on the subject. Marketers are charged with promoting products, which entails setting public perception about the product. In modern use of the word, this often devolves into propaganda instead of persuasion. Effective in the short term, setting unrealistic public perception about a product will eventually backfire.

This happens to politicians all the time.

Since perception is reality, at least in the short term, you need to have a clear notion of the reality you create for the market. Like the elastic in a fat fellow’s waistband, it can only be stretched so far before it fails. Since product disappointment is the essence of negative buzz, the greater the degree of potential disappointment you create, the harder the fall once the market commences complaining.

And they know how to complain. I recently read a restaurant review where one consumer said “If they offer to pay you to eat there, Sweet Jesus, don’t do it!”

The market ultimately decides reality, and in doing so redefines your brand. No amount of remessaging or repositioning will change the soiled mind of the market once it has been misled. Criminally insane marketers (no, that is not a redundant phrase) often double down on deceit once their preliminary propaganda pops. Large amounts of otherwise good money is wasted in trying to force a market to disbelieve what it already believes, which is slightly more difficult than changing the moon’s orbit. It also tends to invite mockery and an accelerated decline in brand value.

It is up to you to define reality. But keep in mind that the market is not composed of idiots, despite the outcome of some elections. Your product promotion should nudge people in the direction of the desired perception, letting the market accept the possibility of your chosen product position. The distance between reality and the reality you try to create should be short … so short that you could easily augment the product into that condition. Making reality and positioning one and the same is even better, but foreshadowing your eventual position through current promotions is not unthinkable.

The marketing lesson is that honesty is one of the better policies. The backlash from setting unrealistic expectations is often and deservedly disastrous. “Keep it real” has real meaning.


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